If you want an example of reporters taking dictation from a Democrat apparatchik inside DOJ whose only interest is creating a false narrative for other media to follow, all for the purpose of undermining a high profile GOP official, look no farther than the NYT story about the DOJ leak investigations supposedly “revived” by Attorney General Wiliam Barr in February of 2020.
This story has four reporters on the byline, including long-time noted fabulists Michael Schmidt and Adam Goldman.
Instead of reporting the story straight up, they did to Barr what the NYT adopted as a strategy for all aspects of the Trump Administration from the earliest days — they constructed a multi-dimensional narrative built on a foundation of half-truths and outright fabrications.
This story is about just one aspect, but that one aspect is the proverbial “loose thread” that unravels the entire garment.
In my earlier story calling attention to the nature of the subpoenas involved in this story, I refused to link to it or to summarize it. I’m holding to that, but I have used some quotes from the story so as to expose the duplicity of the reporters.
This story is about the mischaracterization of Assistant U.S. Attorney Osmar Benevenuto of the District of New Jersey, and the fact that veteran Democrats from DOJ have called the NYT reporting about Benevenuto false.
Schmidt, Goldman, and the others wanted what they wrote to be true, and what they wrote was too good to check so they didn’t.
But Schmidt, Goldman, and the others wrote falsehoods about Benevenuto’s work and presented them as facts. They wrote what they were told, just like they were expected to do.
According to the NYT, Schmidt, Goldman, and the others:
… William P. Barr revived languishing leak investigations after he became attorney general a year later. He moved a trusted prosecutor from New Jersey with little relevant experience to the main Justice Department to work on the Schiff-related case and about a half-dozen others, according to three people with knowledge of his work who did not want to be identified discussing federal investigations.
In February 2020, Mr. Barr placed the prosecutor from New Jersey, Osmar Benvenuto, into the National Security Division. His background was in gang and health care fraud prosecutions.
The biweekly updates on the leak investigations between top officials continued. Julie Edelstein, the deputy chief of counterintelligence and export control, and Matt Blue, the head of the department’s counterterrorism section, briefed John C. Demers, the head of the National Security Division, and Seth DuCharme, an official in the deputy attorney general’s office, on their progress. Mr. Benvenuto was involved in briefings with Mr. Barr.
Mr. Demers, Ms. Edelstein, Mr. Blue and Mr. Benvenuto are still at the Justice Department. Their continued presence and leadership roles would seem to ensure that Mr. Biden’s appointees, including Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, would have a full understanding of the investigations.
Late on Friday, Politico ran a story that was the equivalent of a shiv to the kidney of the NYT’s reporters — exposing the duplicity of the reporters’ sources.
As it turns out, AUSA Oz Benevenuto was not among a “small circle of trusted aides and officials” doing the bidding of the evil former Attorney General. Bill Barr didn’t know Benevenuto when he tapped him in February 2020 to look at the stagnant leak investigations that had been open since 2017 and make a decision on what should be done.
Barr asked the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, Craig Carpenito — who himself had been a career prosecutor — if there was anyone he would recommend for a special project that Barr did not describe. Carpentino told Politico:
“The attorney general told me that he wanted someone who was an experienced prosecutor and wasn’t afraid to make decisions. What he wanted to know was whether or not there was anything to these investigations, whether they should be closed or brought forward,” Carpenito said in an interview. “I told him Oz Benvenuto was someone I trusted to give him an honest answer and he has the experience to separate the wheat from the chaff. … I also told him Oz had the intestinal fortitude to give him a real answer: He would say, ‘yes or no.’”
Let’s consider Carpenito for just a moment. Yes, he was appointed U.S. Attorney for New Jersey by Pres. Trump. After being named to that position, he brought back into the New Jersey office as his First Assistant Rachel Honig, the wife of Elie Honig, formerly an AUSA in New Jersey. Elie Honig is a CNN legal analyst, and one of the most virulent anti-Trump and anti-Barr legal pundits on the airwaves.
So, will Elie Honig call Carpenito a Barr crony and stooge, or claim that Carpenito is lying about his recommendation of Benevenuto to Barr? Or will Honig credit Carpenito’s explanation of how it was that Benevenuto came to Barr’s attention and the reasons Barr chose him.
I’ve challenged Honig on Twitter to come forward and call Carpenito a liar. So far nothing but silence.
But here’s the interesting part that exposes the willing falsity of the NYT’s reporting — Benevenuto is a registered Democrat in New Jersey, had been a registered Democrat previously in New York. He was hired into DOJ in 2012 by Paul Fishman, U.S. Attorney in New Jersey appointed by Barack Obama. Fishman told Politico that while he had no idea what Benevenuto’s politics were at the time he hired him, based on conversations with Benevenuto while working together Fishman was certain that Benevenuto was not a Trump-crony or supporter of the Trump Administration.
The NYT’s reporters didn’t need to say Benevenuto was a part of a “small circle of trusted aides” to report their story. But they reported that falsehood as fact because it made Barr’s actions in “reviving” the leak investigations seem more sinister, and as part of the overall narrative that the leak investigations were some Trump-driven effort to get at his political enemies in Congress.
The Politico reporters actually did some “reporting” — they talked to some of Benevenuto’s colleagues in New Jersey.
A former colleague in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey, Andrew Bruck, scoffed at the idea that his friend was carrying out political orders for Barr.
“The idea that Oz is or was Bill Barr’s stooge is just laughable. It’s just outrageous,” Bruck said.
Hey Mike Schmidt and Adam Goldman — you’re being laughed at for idiotic “reporting”. You didn’t “report” anything — you transcribed what you were told by partisans inside DOJ who have an agenda to discredit Bill Barr.
What about the description of Benevenuto having “little relevant experience”? Here’s what Politico reported on the opinions of Benevenuto from those who worked with him:
At the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Benvenuto became known for his dogged preparation and unflinching tactics. He served as one of the lead prosecutors on a massive, 80-defendant takedown of a Newark gang known as the Grape Street Crips.
Colleagues say Benvenuto didn’t linger over decisions and that was part of what landed him the sensitive assignment overseeing leak probes that had dragged on with little action for months or years.
“Stuff doesn’t languish on Oz’s desk,” Fishman said….
An ex-prosecutor who worked with Benvenuto on the Grape Street Crips cases, Barry Kamar, described his former colleague as a straight shooter who sought to build cases that were “airtight.”
“Oz is a prosecutor par excellence. He’s straight out of central casting, in terms of hard-nosed, buttoned-down guy who just follows the evidence wherever it leads,” Kamar said. “He’s a technocrat. He’s not an ideologue…. He would’ve been the worst person to select to do a political hit job.”
How about a former federal judge who was appointed to the bench by Bill Clinton, and talked to Benevenuto about the project before Benevenuto agreed to Barr’s request to take it on:
A former federal judge for whom Benvenuto clerked, Stephen Robinson, said Benvenuto came to him last year to discuss whether he should take on an unspecified special assignment in Washington.
“I never knew what it was about, but I did know he was asked to do it. Oz did what good, honest DOJ employees do: that is, he answered the call,” the former judge said.
Robinson also said he was confident Benvenuto would have resisted any outcome that he didn’t think was justified.
“If there would be an instance where he had to push back on something he didn’t feel was appropriate, I’m confident that would be the case,” the former judge said. “When he was a clerk, he did that with me as a judge.”
Why didn’t four reporters from the NYT run this down before impugning Benevenuto’s professional integrity? They couldn’t risk it.
Impugning Benevenuto’s professional integrity was part of the narrative that Bill Barr was doing something corrupt right up to the end.
Bill Barr is working on a book. The first effort from the Democrats will be to prevent any publisher from agreeing to print the book. But that won’t work.
So the fallback position is to continue to hammer away on Barr in advance of his recounting of events.
It’s all about the narrative for the NYT — fact or fiction doesn’t factor into it.